Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

It’s no secret that employees are happier and more productive when they are engaged in their work and praised for their efforts (Szczesny, 2022). Well-being is a function of how we are treated–which at work, varies. Regardless of what happens to us during the day (or what others do), we can always fine tune how we feel.

Minor adjustments can have a huge impact in how we experience the world, and how those in it respond to us. Recognition, gratitude, positivity, non-violent communication, focusing on our strengths, and paying it forward are each ways to sow courtesy.

Recognition. In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, Carlson (1998) suggests that our modus operandi is “taker”—where we expect, or take for granted without reciprocating or acknowledging others. He is not referring to bosses and their immediate subordinates, but rather a simple “thank you” to someone else. Graciousness makes the givers and receivers feel better about themselves; it improves the office atmosphere, dissolves tension, facilitates working relationships, and promotes levity.

Gratitude. “Thank you” does not have to be expensive. Small gestures, like giving someone your attention (instead of pressing the send button), mailing cards, or going out of your way to help a colleague can have meaning. There is something about receiving a hand-written note that makes recipients light up. Unsung heroes behind the scenes (and support staff who do thankless jobs) are unaccustomed to receiving praise.

We take for granted they’ll keep everything running smoothly. People remember kindness because the persons dispensing it are few. An entitlement mentality describes someone who practices relational negligence, and does not reciprocate. Some things are felt–even when no one says a thing.

If you craft a formal letter consider sending a copy to the recipient’s boss. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Don’t tell me, tell my boss.” Whom would that person like copied? A small gesture that costs a fraction of our time makes an impact. But the tendency is to keep our mouths shut (until something goes wrong) and then to express dissatisfaction. Ninety percent cruise control and ten percent ZAP! Looking and then inspecting to find something we don’t like (and complaining) leave precious little time for doing/saying something meaningful, spreading cheer, giving compliments, or performing random acts of kindness.

What if we reverse this formula? Compliments are free, and the cost of cards/letters/small tokens of appreciation is negligible. In Non-violent Communication: A Language of Life, Rosenberg explains that we complain, resent, blame, judge, or accuse, instead of expressively ourselves in a respectful fashion.

Positivity: what we focus on multiplies. An expansive focus enables us to behave as conduits, whereas a negative obsession restricts us to point convergence (Peirce, 2009). What if we fail to consider the possibility that everything is as it should be? This realistic way of viewing helps us improve upon what what we already have. Each small triumph in conquering a space/obstacle and/or relationship provides satisfaction and a feeling of moving forward. What’s the best thing we can do at this moment? “Count your blessings and not your troubles” applies both to the peaks and valleys of our lives. Where the outlook appears bleak is where we need recalibration the most.

When we’re not in the driver’s seat of the now we can lose our bearings. Sometimes we arrive at an unwanted destination by making comparisons–which is one of the fastest ways to empty our gratitude bucket. Our emphasis is too often on what we lack. A positive mindset helps us gain perspective.

References and related posts

Berk, A., & Wilson, C. (2022, October 10). Why a better focus on wellbeing is needed for sustainable transformations.

Carlson, R. (1998). Don’t sweat the small stuff at work. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Gilbert, J. A. (2011, August 9). Reap the benefits of reciprocity.

Gilbert, J. A. (2013, June 22). The gift of gratitude.

Mautz, S. (n.d.). 11 mental tricks to stop overthinking everything. (n.d.). Inc.

Peirce, P. (2009). The intuitive way: The definitive guide to increasing your awareness. New York, NY: ATRIA Paperback.

Rosenberg, M. Non-violent communication: A language of life. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press.

Szczesny, M. (2022, October 9). Why employee recognition needs to be a part of your workplace.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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